Young hispanic woman suffering for summer heat and lack of air conditioning at home. Black girl covered with sweat sleeping on floor with head inside fridge.

    How to get a good night’s sleep during a heatwave

    27 July 2018

    Your body temperature is connected to the overall quality of your sleep. And so, during a heatwave, our sleep patterns can be hugely affected. The ideal temperature for your bedroom is about 17-22C. Not ideal when the outside temperatures here in the UK are rising up to as much as 37C!

    Melatonin is a sleep inducing hormone that our bodies release. There are two important factors involved in the release of melatonin. One is the reduction in your body temperature and the other is the reduction of light. You need darkness and a cool comfortable body in order to sleep well. When the core temperature is too high, the body releases it through the skin. Sweat is produced, which evaporates to help lower the temperature. When you are cold, the blood vessels constrict to conserve heat and the blood becomes more concentrated in the internal organs away from the limbs. When your temperature rises, you’ll more likely to feel awake and by contrast, when it falls, you’ll probably start to feel tired.

    We shouldn’t expect our bodies to automatically adjust to our surroundings. Instead, we can take measures to help encourage a good night’s rest. With a heatwave, you would of course expect a lot of sun. So, for example, if you can, get outside in the mornings for about 20 minutes to help regulate the production of melatonin and, likewise, dim the lights in the evening to signal to your body that it’s time to go to sleep. This will work towards setting your body’s natural rhythm – helping you to maintain a regular sleeping pattern for less disruptive nights.

    If you are a coffee drinker and an insomniac, that’s not a winning combination. Consider cutting out coffee (drinks like Coca-Cola too, if that’s your poison) altogether if possible. If you can’t bear the thought of that, at least give yourself an early afternoon cut-off point to stop drinking it, and move over to water instead. Your body will thank you! Thinking about what we eat is also important. You wouldn’t swim on a full stomach, so why should you sleep on it? Embrace the hotter weather and opt for something less heavy. Our bodies will otherwise be far too busy digesting the food; hardly a good state for relaxing and sleeping.

    Chamomile tea is also great for encouraging a good night’s rest. You can find the calming herb at most grocery or health food stores. Chamomile tea contains a compound called apigenin which gives the herb it’s anti-anxiety powers. Apigenin is linked with calming nerves. Couple with boiling water and sip slowly before bed. You’ll find that your eyes will close a little easier than before. Fancy something a little colder? Again, drink water! Avoid alcohol if you are not sleeping well. When your body is processing alcohol, it creates heat and dehydration. If the body needs to lower the body temperature in order to sleep, but it’s still trying to metabolise the alcohol, you will struggle to get a good night’s rest.

    When you’re about an hour away from getting under the sheets, a great way of cooling yourself down in this heat is to take a warm bath. It may seem odd to recommend this, but as soon as you get out of the bath, your skin temperature drops very quickly which helps the onset of sleep. Speaking of pre-bed preparation, try switching off your television too (or, if you have it in your bedroom, the ideal is to remove it entirely!). When you become disconnected from yourself, you become stressed. Spend that time reading and relaxing instead. Your mind needs to quieten down in order for your body to quieten down.

    As I mentioned previously, melatonin is a hormone which regulates sleep and wakefulness. Various foods contain melatonin such as grapes and cherries but there are some excellent all-natural supplements on the market such as Utmost Me’s Neuro Rest. The blend is shown to reduce anxiety and has a calming effect on the brain, allowing you to switch off for a good night’s rest. Lavender oil is another calming bedtime product so try a few drops of it on your pillow. In this hot weather, when we are often tossing and turning, the scent is found to be very relaxing.

    The breath, heart and mind are linked. Once you’ve finally got into bed (making sure it’s comfortable – fresh sheets are always a lovely treat!) start taking longer, deeper breaths. As a result, the heart rate comes down and the mind settles; you are therefore more likely to fall asleep. Just put your hands on your belly and allow the breath to deepen. Do this for 15 minutes when you turn the lights out.

    It may sound unusual, but one last trick you can try to worry less about the heat and be on your way to a good night’s sleep is to hum like a bumblebee for 10 minutes! The bumblebee breath is incredible for insomnia. It calms the mind, gets rid of negative emotions and stimulates serotonin. Turn the lights out, lay comfortably on your back and make the bumblebee sound! Just inhale and hum on the exhale, and that’s it.

    This article was contributed by Anandi, the sleep guru (